March 7, 2019–Laura Atwood–Changing Perceptions of Anchorage Animal Care and Control …by Making Connections and Creating Community

As the Public Relations Coordinator for Anchorage Animal Care and Control (AACC), Laura Atwood engages with the Anchorage community every day, whether through social media, shelter tours, school presentations or press interviews. Since starting at AACC in 2014, her goal has been to change the perception of Anchorage’s open-admission animal shelter from “the pound” to a safe haven where temporarily homeless animals are cared for by compassionate staff and volunteers while maintaining public safety as a top priority. She draws on her professional experience in marketing and forming community partnerships to achieve this goal.

When not working, Laura spends time with her adopted pack, Whisper, an Alaskan husky that accompanies her on school visits and shelter tours; Piper, a Rottweiler that competes in canine nose work and is training for agility competition; and an orange tabby cat named Petunia that knows a few tricks. Laura also enjoys photography and gardening, and volunteers for Rottweiler Rescue Los Angeles as its social media manager.

Laura requests that luncheon attendees write down and bring with them three to five words or phrases that come to mind when you think of a municipal animal shelter.

Laura Atwood

Laura Atwood

Feb. 7, 2019–Adrienne Lindholm–How Nature and Writing Help Us Make Sense of the World

Adrienne Lindholm is a writer, speaker, and mother who lives in Eagle River, Alaska. She’s the author of several books on backpacking, and her stories and essays have appeared in a variety of magazines and journals.

Released in August 2018, her newest book, It Happened Like This, is a coming-of-age memoir that Outside Magazine calls one of the “best new adventure books.”

Adrienne also oversees the Wilderness Stewardship Program for the National Park Service in Alaska. She believes it is the wildest places that inspire us to be our best selves, that provide refuge from the stresses of our fast-paced society, and that remind us of the value of humility and interconnectedness.

Learn more about Adrienne and her new book at

Photo of Adrienne Lindholm
Adrienne Lindholm

Jan. 3, 2019–Jamey Bradbury–Cornered, Stuck, and Stymied: How Limitations Make Us More Creative

Jamey Bradbury of Anchorage will discuss creativity and her acclaimed book The Wild Inside. In a review of her recent book, John Irving wrote: “The Wild Inside is an unusual love story and a creepy horror novel — think of the Brontë sisters and Stephen King.”

Jamey’s fiction has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Spark + Echo, and Zone 3. She also has written for 49 Degrees North, Alaska Home Magazine, and The, and is an associate editor for Alaska Quarterly Review.

A Midwesterner by birth, Jamey grew up in Illinois and earned her MFA from the University of North Carolina Greensboro. She served in AmeriCorps and in the Peace Corps, and now lives in Anchorage. Learn more at

Jamey Bradbury

Jamey Bradbury

Dec. 6, 2018–Rich Welliver–Becoming Santa Claus: Embracing the Persona and Lessons I’ve Learned

The son of a professional Santa Claus, Rich Welliver somewhat reluctantly inherited the suit in 2005 with the death of his father. That same year, Rich took a motorcycle trip to Alaska and decided to move here when he retired.

The Santa Clause role started as a few appearances for friends, but soon was much more in demand. Rich now lives in North Pole, where he frequently appears at the Santa Claus House. Today he feels the Santa persona provides the most rewarding experiences of his life.

Rich was born in Pennsylvania, lived in many states and England because of his father’s Army career, and joined the military himself after graduating from high school. After 8 years in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service, Rich worked in Washington, DC, for the U.S. Department of Defense for 34 years, retiring in 2009.

Rich Welliver--Santa Claus

Rich Welliver–Santa Claus


Nov. 1. 2018–Dawnell Smith–The Writer’s Block: A Community Word Hub…a look at the many ways words fill our space, to build and share community

Dawnell Smith is a founder and co-owner of Writer’s Block Bookstore & Café. She has lived in Alaska for 30 years and worked as a brewer, journalist, nonprofit administrator, communications strategist, and mom, among other things. She currently makes a living in the nonprofit and gig economy. On the rare occasion she’s not working, she creates essays, poems and other mixed-genre literary work.

Occupying a storefront that was formerly an adults-only porn store on Spenard Road in Anchorage, The Writer’s Block started with the idea for a community gathering place. Through the passions of its four founders, a community hub was created. The Writer’s Block is a bookstore, an art space, a coffee shop, and a beer and wine bar. A place for reading, but also for song, spoken word, and performance, as well as for writing, connecting, thinking.

Dawnell Smith Photo

Dawnell Smith

Oct. 4, 2018–Kathleen Tarr–We Are All Poets Here

Kathleen Witkowska Tarr’s book We Are All Poets Here (VP&D House, 2018) is narrative nonfiction, part-memoir, part-biography, which involves Thomas Merton and his 1968 surprise sojourn to Alaska.

Alaska was one of the last places the Trappist monk and spiritual thinker saw before he met his tragic, accidental death in 1968.

Kathleen is a long-time Alaskan and nonfiction writer who has lived in many parts of the state. Her work has appeared in a wide range of literary and commercial publications, including contributions to the anthologies, We Are Already One, 1915-2015, Thomas Merton’s Message of Hope (Fons Vitae Press, 2015), and Merton & the World’s Indigenous Wisdom (2018).

Kathleen currently sits on the board of the Alaska Humanities Forum. For two years she served as a Mullin Scholar at USC’s Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, and is a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Kathleen was named a William Shannon Fellow by the International Thomas Merton Society and is the founder of the Alaska Chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society. Kathleen earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at the University of Pittsburgh in 2005.

She lives and writes in Anchorage under the shadow of the Chugach Mountains.

Photo of Kathleen Tarr

Kathleen Tarr


Sept. 13, 2018–Keenan Powell–Writing What Matters: how a real life murder mystery inspired me to spend hundreds of hours writing a manuscript with no reason to believe it would ever be published

After illustrating Dungeons and Dragons, I ditched art for law school, and moved to Anchorage the day after graduation. As a young pup, I associated with M. Ashley Dickerson, Phillip Weidner, and Edgar P. Boyko, and then went out my own, providing criminal defense representation including the infamous walrus round-up case and the murder trial of Tracy McCracken, a paraplegic charged with murdering his personal care attendant.

In 2009, there was a string of homeless deaths, which the Alaska Medical Examiner had ruled were the result of “natural causes.” While attending a legal seminar, I learned of a little-known law that permits the medical examiner to declare death by natural causes without performing an autopsy. These deaths and that loophole inspired me to write Deadly Solution.

Based upon that manuscript, I won the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic grant in 2015, which led to my introduction into the crime-fiction community and ultimately a three-book deal. Deadly Solution was published in January of 2018. Hemlock Needle, inspired by Native corporation contracts, is scheduled for release in 2019. Hell and High Water, a “country estate” mystery, set in a Seward ecolodge socked in during a pineapple express, will be published in 2020.

Keenan Powell

Keenan Powell

June 7, 2018–Laurel Bill–Aunt Phil’s Trunk history series provides entertainment, education and preservation of Alaska’s incredible past for adults and children alike

Third-generation Alaskan Laurel Downing Bill wrote and published the entertaining five-book Aunt Phil’s Trunk Alaska history series, winning the 2016 Literary Classics International award for best nonfiction series worldwide. She also wrote Sourdough Cookery, which features 100 sourdough recipes and a starter that began with her great-grandfather in 1896 Hope, Alaska.

Laurel writes stories for various Alaska newspapers and magazines, as well, and has won several awards for her work from the Alaska Professional Communicators, Eric Hoffer Excellence in Independent Publishing, Best Books, Shelf Unbound and Readers’ Favorite.

Born in Fairbanks, Laurel also lived in Juneau and King Salmon before moving into Anchorage in 1997. She says she’s a late bloomer, as she began her journalism education at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1999. While interning with the Alaska Newspaper chain during her junior year, she wrote a story titled Life or Meth about methamphetamine cooks, sellers and users in Anchorage. It won sixth place in the national 2002 William Randolph Hearst competition.

Laurel graduated with her degree in 2003 and says that this new chapter of her life during “retirement” is the best yet and she’s having the time of her life bringing Alaska’s colorful past to life.

Laurel Bill

Laurel Bill

May 3, 2018–Ernestine Hayes, Alaska Writer Laureate–Our Histories, Our Future

Alaska Writer Laureate Ernestine Hayes belongs to the Kaagwaantaan clan of the Tlingit nation. Her first book, Blonde Indian, an Alaska Native Memoir, received an American Book Award and an Honoring Alaska Indigenous Literature (HAIL) Award. It was also a Native America Calling Book of the Month and finalist for the Kiriyama Prize and PEN Nonfiction Award, and was the inaugural selection for Alaska Reads. Her works have appeared in Studies in American Indian Literature, Yellow Medicine Review, Cambridge History of Western American Literature, and other forums. Her poem “The Spoken Forest” is installed at Totem Bight State Park, and her comments on Indigenous identity are installed in the Alaska State Museum. Her latest book, The Tao of Raven, weaves narratives and reflection in the context of Raven and the Box of Daylight.

At the age of 50, Hayes enrolled at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) to complete an education that had ended when she dropped out in tenth grade. She received a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Literary Arts and is now Associate Professor at UAS. Known as an advocate for social justice, Hayes shares her story to encourage and inspire people on their paths.

Ernestine Hayes

Ernestine Hayes

April 5, 2018–Julia O’Malley–Changes at the Anchorage Daily News and the Future?

Julia O’Malley is a third-generation Alaskan, writer, teacher, and editor at the Anchorage Daily News. She’s written for The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian, and National Geographic, among other publications. She started her journalism career as a high school intern at the Anchorage Daily News 23 years ago.

Julia was the visiting Atwood Chair of Journalism at the University of Alaska Anchorage from 2015-2017, where she taught food writing, social media, community reporting, and digital journalism. She’s been the recipient of numerous national journalism awards for feature and food writing, including a nomination for a James Beard Award in 2018.

Julia O'Malley's Photo

Julia O’Malley